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The Complex Character of Shakespeare’s Hamlet

The Complex Character of Shakespeare’s Hamlet

Upon examining Shakespeare’s characters in this play, Hamlet proves to be a very complex character, and functions as the key element to the development of the play. Throughout the play we see the many different aspects of Hamlet’s personality by observing his actions and responses to certain situations. Hamlet takes on the role of a strong character, but through his internal weaknesses we witness his destruction.

In the opening of the play, Hamlet is confronted by the ghost of his father and told to revenge his “foul and most unnatural murder”. Later on, however, Hamlet begins to doubt the ghost. He then thinks up the Murder of Gonzago to verify the truthfulness of the ghost and also to allow himself more time. After learning the truth, Hamlet still continues to procrastinate the killing of Claudius. Although Hamlet is full of purpose, he lacks the ability to carry out his intentions, and thus allows his character flaw to eventually destroy him. Another characteristic that acts against Hamlet is his excessive melancholiness. Hamlet experiences rejection from his true love, anger from the murder of his father, betrayal from his friends and family, and fear from what lies ahead. These feelings of pain and sorrow are embedded deep inside Hamlet, and eat at him like a terrible disease. Unfortunately, by the end of the play Hamlet has stopped fighting this disease and leaves his future up to fate. As he begins his duel with Laertes he says: “the readiness is all”, meaning that fate will decide the future and if it means death he will accept it.

In connection to Hamlet’s indecisiveness and melancholiness, one has to question his sanity. At the beginning of the play Hamlet seems logical and quick, but this soon fades after Hamlet has his first visitation with the ghost of his father. Hamlet then doubts himself and starts to believe that his eyes have deceived him.

Sub-plots in Hamlet

Sub-plots in Hamlet

There are many things that critics say make Hamlet a “Great Work,” one of which is the way that Shakespeare masterfully incorporates so many sub-plots into the story, and ties them all into the main plot of Hamlet’s revenge of his father’s murder. By the end of Act I, not only is the main plot identified, but many other sub-plots are introduced. Among the sub-plots are trust in the Ghost of King Hamlet, Fortinbras, and the relationship between Hamlet and Ophelia. These three sub-plots are crucial to making Hamlet the master piece that it is.

In the times that Shakespeare lived ghosts were a readily accepted idea, but one had to be wary of them because it was difficult to decipher a good ghost from a bad one. Horatio, Hamlet’s best friend, first brings that question into our mind when the Ghost is asking Hamlet to follow it. Horatio warned:

What if it tempt you toward the flood, my lord,

Or to the dreadful summit of the cliff

That beetles o’er his base into the sea,

And there assume some other horrible form

Which might deprive your sovereignty of reason

And draw you into madness? Think of it. (68)

Hamlet disregarded Horatio’s warnings, followed the Ghost of his father, and heard of the murder that took place. This is where he learned of his quest to revenge his father, the main plot of the play. But Hamlet still wasn’t sure of the validity of the Ghost, so he decided to put the Ghost’s accusations to a test. “There is a play tonight before the King: One scene of it comes near the circumstance Which I have told thee of my father’s death. . . Observe my uncle. If his occulted guilt Does not itself unkennel in one speech, It is a damned ghost that we have seen” (156). By having a group of play…

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…For many authors, to take so much as a word out of their work it is destroying it. For plays though, it is meant for words to be changed and added, but not for whole plots and sub-plots. To take out such a big section of a play is disastrous because it leaves the reader and audience with unanswered questions. The sub-plots add to the plot complexity, let the audiences become more involved, and let them all leave feeling that they had seen some characteristic of themselves in the play. This is what makes a play great, and makes the audience want to see it over and over again. Even a seemingly needless character can relate to someone. The more sub-plots (ones that are well worked into the play) the more people that can relate, the better the play.

Works Cited

Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Durband, Alan, ed. and modern translation. Hutchinson

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